September/October Gardening Tips

Unwritten rules of gardening …
The best way to garden is to put on a wide brimmed straw hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell your husband where to dig.

Garden Tips for September and October
September is our transition into Fall here in Southern California and the start of the best planting season of the year. Although the nights may begin to cool off the days are still warm and it’s not uncommon to have short blasts of extremely hot weather and Santa Ana winds.

Over the next two or three months we switch from summer-blooming to winter-blooming annuals and from warm-season to cool-season vegetables. This is not an abrupt change but a slow transition. Start cleaning out faded flowers and vegetables but leave the good ones in place to enjoy as long as they last. Now is the time to prepare the soil and to begin to plant but don’t rush the planting at the expense of preparing your soil well. Remember – October is the best month for planting so you have time. The basis for every good garden is the soil; if you take care of the soil you won’t have to worry about the plants. The steps differ depending on whether you’re starting a new planting bed or replanting an existing one. If you’ve never planted a fall garden before and if you choose to do it this year, you’ll be in for a most rewarding experience. Autumn is the time to plant the cool-season annuals, perennials and vegetables, all of which will thrive in our lovely San Diego-area autumn weather. Our autumn weather is not only a boon for our plants but it’s also probably the most pleasant time of the year to be out working the garden. It is the very best time of the year to plant most trees and shrubs. By planting them in the fall they have time to develop a strong root system for their later bloom period.

Soil Preparation for New Beds
Start by turning the soil and watering deeply – continue to water and wait at least two weeks. The loose soil and water should germinate most of weed seeds in the soil. Weed these opportunists out now and you should have an easier time keeping the bed weed-free later. Before planting, finish with the soil preparation steps for existing beds which follows.

To summarize:

Soil Preparation for Existing Beds
Loosen the soil and add a three-inch to four-inch layer of organic material. This can be home-made compost, bagged compost or planting mix. Add an all purpose food and turn in well. If you have a heavy clay soil (as most of us do), add some gypsum; it helps to break up the clay (about 10 pounds for every 100 sq.ft). To replenish the nitrogen in the soil, add bloodmeal, cottonseed meal or some well-composted manure. To replenish the phosphorus in the soil, add phosphate or bone meal (Note: Since phosphorus is water-insoluble and nearly immobile in the soil, it should be added now when it can be thoroughly mixed into the soil. To figure out how much of each of these amendments you should add follow the instructions on the label. When all the amendments have been added mix them thoroughly into the soil with a spade or spading fork. Now you’re ready to plant.

To summarize:
Loosen…Add organics…Add gypsum (if needed)…Add nitrogen…Add phosphorus…Mix thoroughly…Start planting!